Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Family Lists: Parents with Parents

These are interesting days that we live in. The average lifespan of every American is longer now than it ever has been before. We have more advanced healthcare than at any time in our history. When originally conceived, Social Security was designed to take care of American men and women for the last few months and years of their lives. The system has stopped working because people are living longer. There is not enough money to support people for five, ten, twenty or more years.

That leads us to our issue of the hour. In past generations, children understood that their parents were going to work until their deaths, or very near it. Now it seems that children, adult children, may be responsible for their parents in some way for a couple of decades or more. This raises a host of practical, ethical and spiritual issues. What follows is my attempt to offer some direction for Christians who are dealing with these issues, or someday will be. Hopefully, there will be value in the following list for parents, and their parents.

  • Remember that you must always to love your parents (Colossians 3.20). When making decisions for or with your parents remember that they are people of value. God loves them. So should you. Your convenience is not the most important issue at stake.
  • Jesus was concerned with caring for his mother. Even at his death, Jesus was thoughtful enough to make provision for his mother’s care and protection (John 19.27).
  • Consider the feelings and wishes of your parents. Their priorities and desires may not be the same as yours. Take into account their feelings.
  • Always think about what is best for everyone. There may come a time when you will need to take away a driver’s license, a favorite power tool or kitchen utensil. Do so with love, grace, empathy and understanding.
  • Spend as much time with your parents as possible. As they get older they will have fewer and fewer friends. They will be less mobile and social. You and your family should pick up the slack. Your parents are people of value and a gift from God. Treat them as such. Make sure that they know you believe they are special.
  • When dealing with end of life concerns, be thoughtful, prayerful and considerate. No one wants to think about death, advance directives or even funeral planning. Be patient, but persistent. Be loving, but firm.
  • Remember that God is always in charge. His plans are greater than yours. His ideas are bigger than you are.

Remember where you came from. They are people who have loved you. At the end of their lives they should know that they are loved in return.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In Prayer I

For the next several weeks I am going to use this space to offer some model prayers. These prayers can be used to help you start your prayer time, to guide you through your prayer time, or to be the content of your prayer time. May they inspire and encourage you to always grow in faith and prayer.

In Thanksgiving
Lord, You are good.
Your love lasts forever.
Your grace knows no end.
You continue to care for me, encourage me, provide for me.
Thank you.
Thank you for your provision.
I am grateful for...
a job,
and security.
Thank you for my relationships.
I am grateful for...
my spouse,
my children,
my parents,
my family,
those who encourage me and those who challenge me.
Thank you for my faith.
I am grateful for...
Christian fellowship.
Thank you for the hope I have. I know that I am not alone. You are always with me. You have promised me good things in the future. Stay with me.
In the name of Jesus I pray.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Threefold Jesus

So, I've been thinking. A lot. Sure, my thoughts are not always serious, or worth dwelling upon. But they are thoughts nonetheless, and since they are mine, I think them important. They started with a conversation with a friend. I was talking about something that Jesus said in the gospels when my friend asked, "How do you really know that Jesus said that?"

I was taken aback. I have heard those questions before. I was aware that people had doubts about the veracity of the gospel stories. In fact, I have studied the objections and debated the issues. But I was shocked that someone I count as a friend could be so bold. So, how do I know?

I worked on it for awhile. I read some apologetics texts. I studied some papers I had written in seminary. I meditated. I built theoretical arguments. I argued them. I rebutted them. I tried other arguments.

I believe I can make a case for the existence of Jesus. I think that we can safely know a lot about what Jesus said and did. But all of that boils down to faith. I believe. That makes all of this a lot easier for me. I trust in the Bible. I have faith in the church. I know what I have experienced in my own heart and life. I am sure that God has revealed the truth about Jesus.

That led me to my second problem. What is the most important thing: Jesus? His works? His words? This was- and is- not as easy for me to answer.
  • Jesus' words are crucial to Christians. We get our pattern for life from what Jesus taught. We know that we are supposed to live in a certain way, because Jesus told us to live that way. Much of our ethic, at least where it affects public life and civil discourse, comes from the words of Jesus. The social justice Christians- of which I am one- are significantly influenced by the words of Jesus.
  • Jesus' actions are crucial to Christians. We learn how to interact with others, how to teach, how to show compassion and how to stand for truth by studying how Jesus does it. We also learn to expect miracles, healings and strong stands for the oppressed by watching what Jesus does. The evangelical and charismatic Christians- of which I am one- are significantly influenced by the actions of Jesus.
  • Jesus' life is crucial to Christians. There are several things to cover here. Jesus, according to orthodox Christianity, is the incarnation of God himself. That is, the life of Jesus is important because he was God in the flesh. Secondly, Jesus was completely human. Although he was divine, he was still a man. He knows all about my weaknesses and struggles because he had them too. Finally, Jesus' life ended, but it did not stay ended. He is alive today to verify for all Christians the truth of our faith. Christians- of which I am one- are significantly influenced by the life of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Staying on Track

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2.4

It is now two days after Easter. Most of you know that I believe Easter to be the greatest day of the year. Without Easter we would not celebrate any other holy days or holidays. In fact, were it not for Easter, there would not be a Christian faith. So each spring I focus my attention and energy to Easter. Lent has become important to me as a preparation for the best day of the year. But this year things have been different in my head and in my heart.

My head has been pre-occupied and busy with all sorts of activity and involvement. The minutiae of life has taken over it seems. I have- necessarily, I believe- neglected some of the things that I would normally be paying attention to. I have not been the person that I should be because my mind has not been where it should be. One perfect example of this inattentiveness is the tardiness of this article. It was due over two weeks ago. And yet, here I am writing it now. I am sorry that this is late. I am sorry that it has held up the whole newsletter. I am sure that you have no idea how truly sorry I am.

My heart has been emotionally fragmented and stunted. I have had less patience for people, their concerns and how I can help them than I should have. My commitments are waning. I know what I should be doing, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to overcome a nagging sense of apathy. My relationships are suffering as a result.

The confessional nature of this writing is semi-intentional. It is not my purpose to ease my conscience or provide a sense of emotional absolution for my own shortcomings, although it is doing that very thing. I am writing this particular article because I believe that I am not the only one with these problems. I have a hunch that many people reading this are struggling with apathy, complacency and indifference. Lack of commitment often creeps in and takes hold of our hearts without warning. We are stuck with it before we even know it.

There are some answers, though.

  • Begin with prayer. You may not feel like it. You may not want to do it. But pray.
  • Renew your commitments. Be reminded of all that you have promised your family, your God, your church and your community.
  • Find an accountability partner or team. There are people all around you who can use a little help in this process, just like you. Keep track of each other and your progress in these things. Push one another along.
  • Do a regular self-check. Keep track of your progress and give yourself a grade every few weeks. On the first of every month, for example, evaluate your priorities and intentions. Make sure that you are staying on course with what you have promised and what God wants for you.
  • Finally, let God help you in this process. It was Paul who encouraged his young disciple, Timothy, with these words, “…stir up the gift of God which is in you…” (1 Timothy 1.6). God wants you to be revived, to remember, to return.

I know that I need to get things straightened out in my life. I am not sure where you are, but let me encourage you to remember what you are called to do. Don’t be lazy. Do what God has called you to do.